Jul 10
by Don

It’s been awhile since we have had a general tips post.  Here are some odds and ends that we thought of that I know could benefit some of our fellow Vegas travelers.  So here they are in no particular order:

This will get you comps that you are looking for, and maybe a little extra coin as well.-If you are mainly a table game player and rarely play slots, you should consider changing it up a bit.  The rating systems are slanted even more heavily towards slot players now than ever before and unless you are sitting down with over $500 per session of blackjack and willing to bet at least $25 per hand, don’t expect much notice from the pit boss.  So now what?  Well what you can do is play the $1 Wheel Of Fortune.  It’s the most popular slot machine by far and you will get the biggest bang for your buck.  The key is to, “pimp them and leave”.  Lori calls it that as you basically take whatever winnings that you come to at any point and just leave.  For example; you put in $100 and play for a bit and you get a wheel spin.  Congratulations, this is what EVERYONE wants.  So you get $35 on the spin and you hear the clapping soundtrack, yeah!  Now you have done some winning (and some losing) on the session, but that spin of the wheel puts you to $128 on your total credits. Great, now leave.  I know that you are thinking that it’s just $28 of profit, but the point is not to win a ton; it’s not to lose any while you are trying to get rated.  Only in Vegas would $28 not seem like much of anything, because if you were at home and you saw $28 on the floor you would pick it up.  Now do the same thing here.  Use it for cab fare, or tipping (as you know I am all about), food, whatever.  What normally happens is that people just want to keep playing and playing and eventually they will lose all of their initial money.  So don’t let that happen to you.  Just take your winnings and go to the next stop, do what you do and play again later.  You won’t always win, but you will come out way ahead in the long run.

-Water.  A no brainer here, but still it has to be said.  Drink water all the time.  Too often people don’t and it can get ugly.  Especially in the summer months with 100+ degree temps.

-Use your points/comps on your trip.  A lot of times the play that you have done over the course of the trip has afforded you some comps in the form of discounts of just free crap.  Use them on the trip that you are on because they start to expire the moment you leave.  One thing that a casino host told me is that at the end of your trip you should go to casino marketing and have them apply whatever you have earned toward your hotel charges.  You have to go to casino marketing though, because the two systems are not connected and it doesn’t happen automatically.  Take what they give you, because they are definitely going to take from you!

Doesn't have to be this complicated, but a loose plan will help you maximize your fun and excitement.-Have a plan, however loose.  The worse thing to do is to be wandering around aimlessly without a destination.  It’s too hot and things are too far apart to be doing that.  Plus random cab rides add up, so have an idea of what you want to do and plan around it.  Seeing a show? Great, plan dinner at or near that location. Want to watch some sporting event? Realize that you are on the West Coast and there might be a time change (like Sunday Night Baseball at 5 pm, what’s up with that?)

-Call your bank before going and tell them that you are traveling to Vegas.  There is a lot of fraud and if you have a bank like mine (Bank of America), they have a huge fraud department that works almost too well.  This is only really an issue if you need to go to the ATM, especially inside a casino because this may trigger something in their network to shut your debit card down.  Don’t let this happen to you.

-If you have to get money out of an ATM, don’t do it in the casino.  Recently the casinos have jacked up their fees to some crazy levels.  Our flight attendant on the way out actually made an announcement to that affect.  So we checked, and sure enough they had to the tune of $22+.  There are ATMs (Bank of America) in The Forum Shops @ Caesars (3 I believe), there is one on the 3rd or 4th Floor of the M&M store down by MGM and ATM at Casino Royale has a fee of only $1.00. Plus there are ATMS at all monorail stations (Bank of Nevada).  These are normal ATMs with normal fees.

-Ask for matches.  They seem to be the only things that are actually free, i.e. you don’t have to gamble anything to get them.  I actually saw a no money exchange for matches at a sundries shop in Ceasars.  I don’t even smoke and I almost asked for some.

More tips as they come up, but this should get you going in the right direction. Viva Las Vegas indeed!

Jun 1
by Don

This is a cautionary tale of what can happen after an all day poker, blackjack and JWB binge.

So a couple of years back 44, Lori and I went to Vegas on one of our poker trips.  Great times really, but it was summer time and it was hot.  The kind of heat that feels like you are in a convection oven that is set on 500.  We were actually walking on the Strip during the day and I was putting ice on my head that was actually evaporating after a couple of minutes.  Insane.

After a full day of poker and some blackjack, the three of us are in Harrah’s waiting in line to eat in their café (which is now a Chinese restaurant, not bad but nothing special) late.  We have been drinking and gambling and generally having a good time when 44 begins to have issues.

He starts slowly and low at first proclaiming that the blood in his legs is boiling.  He is slapping his thighs and stressing that he is serious and he can feel the heat in his legs, and only his legs.  Now I don’t know how you can “feel” temperature differences in your blood, but he is going on and on about how his blood is boiling.  Now he is getting loud and basically we are causing a small scene.  Of course Lori and I look at each other and do what only we can at this point, we start laughing hysterically.

So now you have this guy yelling that his blood is boiling and the two people he is with are just laughing.  The thing is he was dead serious and his face had this fierce look like he was the Ultimate Warrior or something.  Crazy actually.

Somehow we get seated during all of this and 44 proceeds to down three of the glasses of water in breakneck fashion.  After the third glass, he returns to normal and the rest of the night finishes without much incident.

I think that he was just really dehydrated, but it’s definitely another reason why you have to heed the message I put in a previous post and drink a lot of water throughout the day, unless you too want your blood to boil!   

May 20
by Don

And one is not money, what would you need?  I know that it seems like you would only need the God given ability to consume mass quantities of alcohol without losing your cookies, but believe me you need more.

Every trip to Vegas is going to necessitate 3 basic items, and no it is not food, shelter, and security (although you might leave Vegas wondering if you will even have those basic of needs when you get back home).

Very simply you need the following:


You don’t even realize how easy it is to get dehydrated.  Just being outside and walking from casino to casino will sap all of the moisture out of your system.  This is even more of an issue if you come from a place that has some humidity as your body will not be accustomed to the dry heat.  In the summer it’s like a convection oven; stifling.  Your best friend is the bottle of water that you will have to have by your side at just about all times.  You will spend more on water than you would normally spend on vacation per say, but it will be worth it because the alternative is just a zombie like feeling that is only compounded with the constant boozing that you most certainly will be doing. Water first, Water later, and Water often.

Lip Balm

Your Lips Will Love You For ThisThis is related to the dehydration situation stated above, but it’s more of a specific problem when it comes to your luscious lips.  I have seen guys with lips that are so chapped that they have spilt them open off of their bottled beer.  Not Pretty.  Girls are less susceptible to this because of the constant application of lip gloss, but still it’s a good item to have on hand.

Good Shoes

This is tremendously important because you will do more walking than you normally do.  Throw in the fact that you will have your “going out” gear on most nights and you have a recipe for some barking dogs come morning time.  I know you think that Planet Hollywood is close to Bally’s, but believe me there is some walking involved and if you are in some heels, you will be feeling it.  Lori has learned this lesson over the years and has since purchased “cute” heels that are also very comfortable.  This means that yours truly doesn’t have to worry that every step will cause some sort of major damage and that the mood will not turn south because of some busting bunions.  If you don’t adhere to this item, you will find yourself in a lot of cab lines when you are with the ladies.

So there you have it.  Sure you need a nice bankroll, a decent room, and some adult beverages to get the party started; but let’s face it you already have those things going for you.  Just don’t forget these 3 essential items that will keep you in the game longer and refreshed for the next day when you will lace them up and do it all again!

May 20
by Don

It seems like such a non issue, but your interaction with your blackjack dealer is critical.  They can certainly make a tough session easier and a great session even better. 

I have another post on Karma that I am cooking up, but I can tell you that a properly toked (tipped) dealer can certainly make a difference in your session.  I can not tell you how many times I have been overpaid, paid on a tie, or just paid on a loss by a dealer who was looking out for yours truly.

Now I am not saying that they are actively trying to get fired, or that I am running some confidence game with a ring of dealers in Vegas or anything.  That’s just not the case.

What I can say is that I have made eye contact with a dealer on a number of occasions as they made a simple mistake, and they just keep moving the game forward.  You see, they don’t care if you take every last chip from their tray.  It’s not their money, and many of them will tell you just that.  So think of it as a bank error in your favor, just like in the monopoly game of your youth.  Only this time its real money and it’s nice when it happens to you.*Not Actual Dealers

I can also tell you how many times I have been shorted; and that would be only once.  It was an honest mistake and we had moved on to the next hand when someone else mentioned it.  The dealer felt terrible and wanted to roll the game back and called the pit boss over and everything.  I told her it was fine and that things happen, and they do.  But I can honestly say they are much more likely to benefit you than not.

Of course it helps if you are tipping like you should (more on that in another post) and if you are at a table with a dealer that is friendly and engaging.  So let’s get to it!

5. Caesars Palace –

We play in the “old” pit in the Forum Casino near the hotel registration area.  This is where you have the best odds for playing and the dealers are generally much older and are really the salt of the earth.  A lot of them have been dealing for years and many of them have stories of Vegas from “back in the day”.  I have had many great times in this pit just listening to some vintage Vegas vets turn a card or two.

4. New York New York–

This used to be a young a hip place to play that was a bit too smoky at times.  That was fine because the dealers were fun and we used to pull a lot of money off of the tables.  However they are currently going through a renovation and everything looks like crap right now.  There is almost no gaming floor left, and they didn’t have a lot to start with.  Hopefully they can make a comeback for next year’s poll, but as of right now they are 4th purely on legacy.

3. The Venetian –

As our level of play has increase over the years, we have found ourselves playing more and more in the Venetian, which is a good thing.  There are so many tables that you never have to hunt around to find a home.  They rate your play pretty well and the dealers have for the most part been great; fast when you need them to be and slow when it’s hurting.  A class act all the way.

2. Harrah’s –

This one tugs on the heart strings as you never forget your first.  Lori and I stayed at Harrah’s for New Year’s in 2003 and it was the right fit for us.   They had lower limits and some of the nicest dealers around.  We were in Vegas for like 6 days (way too long when you have no concept of money management) and they all knew us on the 2nd day by name.  Lori was actually sick that trip and I still remember Arlene asking me about how Lori was feeling.  It was startling and I remember her to this day, some 5 years and 30+ Vegas trips ago.

1. Wynn – 

Now I don’t think that I have won a dime at the casino from the moment it has opened, but I love playing there.  Everyone (and I mean everyone) is so damn nice that you just want to kill yourself.  Everything just smells good and everyone looks good.  Not that it should matter, but a well put together dealer just sets the mood just right.

So there you have it.  Lori and I don’t play downtown or at local casinos so it’s not a definitive list by any means.  But for the average Vegas visitor going to the strip, you can not beat the group for the best dealer experience around.

Remember, results may vary and check with your doctor before starting any vigorous activity. 

May 19
by Don

There are just so many things to talk about when talking about Vegas, so let’s begin at the beginning: Flights.

Now a couple of years ago I finally decided to consolidate my air travel to one airline.  Like most people I would always go to Orbitz and find the cheapest flight and just go from there.  That’s pretty much how I did it for the first couple of years and all was well.  Then I took a look at my miles and realized that I had a ton of miles, but they were spread out across 5 airlines.  And of course I didn’t have enough to do anything on any one of them.

So I decided to take the plunge and pick one carrier and go with it.  The winner was US Airways.  Now about a year after that decision was made I moved to Atlanta for work and of course the two players in this market is Delta and AirTran.  Not to worry though, this decision would turn out to be mint, read on.

Hopefully you do live near a rather larger airport because you will need a lot of flight options when coming to Vegas.  Luckily there are about a million flights into Sin City every day, a ton from LA if you happen to be so lucky.  If you are an East Coaster like me, the distance makes it unrealistic to do any trip less than 3 nights.  I say this because if you are trying to make a weekend out of it and you fly out on Friday night; you inevitably will stay up way to late and then be the walking dead come Saturday.  You will surely catch your 2nd wind and stay up even later on Saturday night and then just be a pile of dung for Sunday as you fly back east all day.  This makes for one crappy Monday morning that you just don’t want to put yourself through.  So you should stay that Sunday night or fly in Thursday so you don’t feel cheated.  Now back to flying…

The real reason to consolidate your air travel is so you can actually achieve some status and potentially some first class upgrades.  Now I am not suggesting that you need to fly to Vegas first class by any means, but it sure is nice.  This is especially true if you are doing it for the cost of a coach ticket.  Enter US Airways.

Since they are not the major player in the ATL, there are not that many Silver, Gold, Platinum, or Chairmen people flying on US Airways; so subsequently yours truly (along with my companion on the same reservation) gets the upgrade just about every time.  This is even more important as I have learned over the years that Lori’s back is not so great when it comes to long flights.  The difference in the seats is like night and day when it comes to her demeanor when disembarking from the plane.  Then you throw in your free adult beverages, meals, and ridiculous amounts of snacks you can easily see the benefits of a little brand loyalty.

(This is a good time to point out that I am bummed that they don’t carry my drink of choice, Johnnie Walker Black.  Sure it’s not a deal breaker, Jack and coke is a fine drink in its own right, but man it would be nice.  I am just saying…)

There are also different things that you can see depending on when you fly into Vegas.  If you take a morning flight from say Florida and you are running ahead of schedule, the pilot often times will bank the plane over the Grand Canyon and then the Hover Dam.  I have been on both sides of the plane when this has happened and the view is amazing for both. 

If you are taking the Red Eye in, well there is nothing cooler than seeing the lights of the strip for the first time.  The crazy thing is the airport could not be closer to the strip so sometimes it looks like you are going to fly right into it!  It feels like a homecoming of sorts when I see that because I know how much fun I will have.  That feeling definitely changes over the years from the excitement of the unknown to one of going home to your hometown and seeing what’s changed.  But Vegas is nothing like your hometown.  This city constantly changes with new casinos and attractions that you are always left with a sense of wonderment as to how every city in America embraces their history and historical buildings and Vegas is the complete opposite.  If it’s not making money then it doesn’t make sense, and then poof it’s gone.

Vegas, it’s my kind of town.